The NFL offseason is a time when players, teams and coaches reevaluate their situations and make moves to improve. The 2015 offseason has been a roller coaster ride of rumors, trades and big-name moves, as well as some respectable franchises being torn down. We’ve witnessed a lot of madness already, and now that a lot of the more prominent free agents have settled down, let’s recap this year’s main storylines.
To start, you have to look at the number of franchise stars that changed scenery. The reigning Super Bowl champion Patriots lost a vital defensive cog when Darrelle Revis returned to their rival, the New York Jets. New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, one of the top pass catchers in the game today with over 2,000 yards and 26 touchdowns over the past two seasons, moved north to Seattle, this year’s runners up. In return, Max Unger, a top center in his own right, will now bolster Drew Brees’ pass protection. Another linesman, this one top-two defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, is moving to Miami, which will revolutionize their bottom third run defense, while last season’s rushing leader, Demarco Murray, will be the featured weapon on Chip Kelly’s Eagle’s offense. The man he replaces is one of the few running backs in the NFL who might be better than him, LeSean McCoy, who is now in Buffalo.
This exodus of household names and superstars that has taken place over the past month will change football’s entire landscape next season and in years to come. Teams like the Bills and Dolphins are looking to shake up the AFC, while Baltimore, New England, Green Bay, and Seattle look to be favorites for high seeds in their respective conferences.
Some teams that traditionally have been playoff squads, San Francisco and Philadelphia, have been drastically redesigned. Several 49ers stars retired, including a promising 24-year-old linebacker who walked away due to safety concerns. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Chip Kelly has quite possibly gone insane. Firstly they traded Nick Foles, the leader in QB rating two years ago, for Sam Bradford, an eternally injured quarterback whose appeal is based on potentially long lost potential. They also sent LeSean McCoy to Buffalo, but did manage to acquire Murray. Now, there are reports that they would sign Tim Tebow if they manage to trade Matt Barkley. San Francisco lost Patrick Willis and Frank Gore to retirement as well as Mike Iupati and Chris Culliver. The traditionally dominant franchise might go through a rough spell for a while if they don’t replace key pieces through free agency or draft.
A third major storyline is less about football and more about sentimental value. This has been the year that people’s childhood stars have either left or retired. Reggie Wayne left the Colts, Andre Johnson the Texans, Wilfork the Pats, Willis and Frank Gore the 49ers and Haloti Ngata from the Ravens. These stars not only performed on the football field but represented entire eras of their respective franchises. What is the Patriots dynasty without Vince Wilfork? The Ravens defense without Ngata? This offseason has torn hearts in the identities of some of the great franchises of the past decade, and watching the NFL next season will be a different experience across the league.
The NFL has been relatively predictable in recent years, but the combination of stars, veterans and franchises changing their directions and careers means that the outlook of the next few seasons as well as the watchability of many teams and divisions is drastically different.